“That’s a great choice,” announced the checkout clerk, scanning the book and ringing the total up on her register.
“I almost didn’t pick it,” her customer replied. “I thought it was a little kids’ book at first. What so great about it?”
“Well, for starters, you’re standing right next to the author,” she giggled.
He turned to look at a short brunette tip-toeing to lean on the end of the counter. A puzzled frown drew his eyebrows together. Cargo pants and sneakers, short hair pulled into a bobtail, he’d mistaken her for boy, maybe the cashier’s little brother. And she looked young, much too young to be the author of anything.
“You’re kidding me, right? You’re Anne Schilde? What are you, like thirteen?”
Annie wrinkled her nose at the pronunciation of her name, and then pushed her glasses back up under her thin bangs. She glanced over at her friend behind the counter. “See, Miss? That’s exactly what I’m talking about,” she said. “Thirteen’s the new seventeen, I guess.”
Melissa bagged the book and took the young man’s credit card.
“What were you talking about, exactly?” he asked.
“Why there’s no About the Author. Let me just ask you… If my picture was on the back cover, would you still have bought the book?”
“Not a chance. I would have been sure it was a kids’ book and I never would have even looked at the review.”
Annie shrugged an I told you so.
“How the hell did a… seventeen-year-old become a published author?” he asked, scribbling his signature on the receipt. “If you don’t mind my asking.” His tone suggested he still didn’t believe the author part any more than the seventeen part.
“Honestly?” Annie queried.
“It’s kind of a funny story, you got a minute?”
His mouth twisted curiously to one side. When you really only need a minute, you don’t ask. He reached into his pocket, checked the time on his phone, and nodded. “Okay.”
“It’s just like everything else, really,” Annie began. “People always tell you it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, but there’s more to it than that. Opportunity is the child of serendipity. It’s about being in the right place at the right time. You said I looked thirteen as if that was a joke, but I’ve been writing stories since I was twelve. It never really occurred to me to try to publish them. I just like going back and reading them.”
“You really look thirteen,” he said.
Annie ignored the remark. “Last summer, I was visiting my Aunt Christy in Minnesota. She took me out to lunch one day, and there we were sitting at a sidewalk cafe, when a lady with her arms full of packages stepped in front of a passing cyclist. He narrowly missed her, but then he ran into a bunch of cartons stacked outside one of the shops and the cyclist and the cartons flew all over the place.”
The man fidgeted. “You’re going somewhere with this, right?”
Annie gave him a look and continued on. “He seemed to be okay, and one of the people walking by stopped to help him up. I couldn’t help but notice one lady sitting close by the accident just watching calmly. Then she got up to talk to he person who helped. I grabbed my aunt’s arm. ‘Oh my God! Isn’t that Moira Myreck?’ My aunt agreed it looked like her, so we sat and watched for a while.”
“Who’s Moira Myreck?” the customer asked.
“She’s the host of Oh Snap! Haven’t you ever heard of it?”
He shook his head and glanced at Melissa smiling dreamily back at him.
“Oh, well you should watch it,” Annie said. “They stage crazy scenarios and photograph people’s reactions to them, and then they air the pictures along with interviews, and the television audience votes on the best picture. It’s kind of like Funniest Home Videos I guess. Anyway, we decided to sit around for a while, and sure enough, some guys came out and re-stacked the cartons, the lady with the packages came back and went back into the shop, and the cyclist rode back the direction he came and disappeared around the corner. We were so excited we couldn’t sit still, and after about fifteen minutes, we watched it happen all over again.”
She paused for breath. “Well, I raced inside the cafe and asked the owner for a piece of tape. I never go anywhere without my notebook…” She reached into one of the pockets in her cargo pants to produce the evidence. “I pulled out a page and wrote on it. ‘Wait here,’ I told my aunt, and I raced up around the corner.
“When the cyclist came and parked to wait for his cue, I approached him from behind and put my hand on his back. ‘Excuse me,’ I said, pointing with the other hand. “Isn’t that Moira Myreck over there?’ He looked at me. ‘I’m sure I couldn’t tell from here,’ he said, trying to be all casual. I went back to my table and waited. This time, when he rode out in front of the cameras there was a sign taped to his back.”
I ♥ BOXES, it said in big black letters.
“‘Cut! Cut!’ I heard the director yelling, and he ran out and took the sign off. The cyclist looked around and then pointed me out.”
Annie was grinning now, as if still proud of herself. “Before I knew it, Moira Myreck was interviewing me and invited me to be a guest on Oh Snap! She seems a lot heavier off set, with almost black hair. She doesn’t look a bit the same up close and without all that makeup… you don’t care about this at all do you?”
He shook his head.
“I didn’t think so. Anyway, in the interview, she asked me about hobbies and stuff, and I talked about how I started writing and that I’d written a novel. The next day I had calls from several publishers. Obviously,” she gestured to the bag in his hand, “HarperCollins was one of them.”
“That sounds to me like it’s not what you know it’s who you know,” the customer said.
“Not really. I mean if you consider I didn’t know Moira Myreck either before after the show. I was in the right place by accident, and I used it to get something I wrote in front of a TV camera. I admit it wasn’t much…”
The look on the young man’s face softened only a little. “I heart boxes?” He flashed a smile. “It wasn’t even funny.”
Annie laughed aloud. “I said I was an author, not a comedienne.”
“I suppose,” he said. “You should autograph my book for me since you’re really the author.”
“Sure, what’s your name?” Annie smiled excitedly and snapped her fingers for Melissa’s pen.
“It’s a shame you didn’t get here a little earlier, Derek,” she said, opening the cover and scrawling inside the cover. “We were giving away free autographed copies at that empty table over there. You missed the last one by minutes.”
Melissa couldn’t contain her giggles.
“Nah,” Annie laughed again, shooting Melissa a glance. “The only thing I ever signed before was a tennis ball once.”
“Nice,” he admitted. “You had me going for a second.”
“Happens to the best of us,” she replied, handing him the book and Melissa her pen.
Derek, took his book and read the inscription.
Oh snap, Derek! I’ve never heard of that T.V. show either! Smiles!
A little flower dotted the i in her signature.
Derek looked up at Annie puzzled, “You just made up all that bullshit?”
Annie shrugged. “That’s how a seventeen-year-old ends up a published author,” she said with a wink.
© 2012 Anne Schilde